While this won’t sound like much to published authors, yesterday I received the galleys for what is now to be titled “Spooky, Creepy North Dakota.” This is the first major step of the publishing part of writing a book (the writing parts are the ideas, the organization, the writing, the revising ad infinitum, and submitting the manuscript, with photos in this case) and I am SO excited!

The galleys have been reviewed by an editor (my editor! What sweet words to an author! especially on a first book, as this is!), and marked for corrections, additions, deletions, etc. It doesn’t yet look like it will look on book pages, but I can see the type they’ll use, and I like it. The corrections (in red) are very few (Yeay!) and are almost all things like “We need one more sentence here” or “This is a reaaalllly long sentence, don’t you think?” or “Can you get a photo to put here?” which makes me feel good; it means that my writing is good and doesn’t need either basic corrections (grammar and spelling — aka line editing), or much style editing. Except for those loooooong sentences. (Yes, I do ramble… Mea culpa.)

So I’m really excited. Not nearly as excited as I will be when my book is in my hands, but still, really excited. The first big step! I’ve been waiting for it since January (since my manuscript was submitted before December 1st) and now it’s here. The timing could be better; I’m leaving tomorrow for five days of photographing spooky creepy locations in the Badlands and Black Hills of South Dakota, and the (hard copy) is due back in my editor’s hands the 29th — four days after I get home. ACK! But, there’s a way out — “If revisions are minor, you can email them to your editor with the hard copy to follow.” And I think that’s what mine will be.

But first, I have to go over it with a fine tooth comb, and then have my eagle-eyed sister do the same thing. After all, what else did we have planned for evenings in South Dakota?

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The recent “happy California cows” ads have succeeded in convincing most people that cows are happy placid animals that have nothing better to do than gossip while munching on grass and chewing their cud, in between milkings, of course. This could not be further from the truth. Cows are vicious, aggressive creatures who hunt in packs. And they’re probably carnivores.

How do I know? From personal experience, of course. I used to be someone who believed that cows were calm and basically a little dim, with kind brown eyes and cute babies. Then late one summer day in my first full field season, I was ordered to do a piece of survey that would lead me through a field of cows. The boss told me that the cows would move away from me and let me pass. Silly me, I believed her.

So with great difficulty, but only one tear in my jeans, I made it over the barbed wire fence and into the field, as the truck disappeared into the distance. All the cows immediately looked at me. I thought they were merely curious; actually, they were starting to plan.

I took a few hesitant steps forward, looking from side to side for any stray artifacts, but any that might have been there were covered with cow flops. The cows moved slowly in my direction. I remembered what the boss had said: if they come towards you, stand still; they have a “personal space” and will stop before they reach you. Silly me; I still believed that. (I didn’t realize that these were actually free range cattle who had been rounded up within the past two days, and stuck into this barbed wire cage. They were not happy cows.)

I walked a few steps more, and one cow stepped out in front, and pawed at the dirt/cowflops and snorted. “Nice cow,” I said. “Be a nice cow. I’m just passing through. Really. I’ll be gone before you know it.”

I don’t know if it was the sound of my voice or the smell of my fear, but the lead cow charged and the rest of the pack followed. I held my ground at first, certain they would stop (after all, the boss SAID they would…), but when they were within about 10 feet and gaining speed, I threw valor to the wind, turned, and ran for my life.

I reached the fence that had given me so much trouble on the way into the field, and just in time, flew over it (Olympics, here I come…). The cows were right behind me, stopping only when the front ranks actually hit the fence. I backed through the ditch and back onto the road, and the cows kept pushing at the fence. Could they get through? Was I doomed?

After about half an hour of standing in the middle of the road and shaking, I noticed that the lead cow seemed to be communicating something to the others. Quickly they spread across the field, returning to pretend to graze. Within minutes the truck returned for me.

No one believed my story. They still don’t, over 30 years later. They all think that Silly Me is terrified of cows for no good reason. They don’t know that vicious carnivorous cows nearly trampled and ate me that hot summer day. But I do, and I remember. And I avoid cows in all forms.